a). European Explorers and Missionaries
The work of evangelization in the African Continent started back in the 16th Century. It was during this time when the European nations started exploring the world with the goal of getting more colonies to expand the economies in their home countries. Early missionaries and explorers accompanied each other in many places. Though these two groups had different goals in their missions, a number of times they worked together in the given areas. Fundamental mission of Explorers was to prepare the groundwork for the colonial governments to come. They did the preliminary work for the colonial governments to establish themselves in the colonies. The primary work of the missionaries was to preach the Gospel to the indigenous. They responded to the call of Jesus Christ to his disciples, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit come on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth,” Act.1:8. Though their goals were different, the missionaries and explorers and then colonizers worked very closely to each other. They were all from the same nationalities and backgrounds and they shared many things in common. This is why many social critics ended up saying missionaries and explorers did a foundation work for colonizers to establish themselves in Africa.
b). Arabs and Persians in East Africa
Prior to the establishment of colonial governments, the infrastructures were very primitive in the whole of the continent. The pre-colonial time as in the case of Tanzania left much hinterland unexplored with outsiders. The Arab and Persian traders who traded with the East Africa from the 8th Century had only impact in the coastal area and very few trading towns in the interior. The Arabs established themselves in the coastal towns like Tanga, Pangani, Bagamoyo and Kilwa. They also established themselves along the slave trade routes like the one which ran from Bagamoyo all the way to Ujiji (in Kigoma) via Morogoro and Tabora. Outside these trade towns, the indigenous were left by themselves in their own tribal governments.
The history of the Arab occupation and trade has the great impact to the social composition of the Diocese of Tanga. As many East African coastal settlements, Tanga was occupied by Arab families who moved from Middle East to trade and then settle in these areas. They brought in their culture and Moslem religion and Middle East culture. Indigenous people of coastal strip including Tanga, Pangani, and other small places are highly influenced with the long years of Arabic culture and religion. Arabs had no much interest in establishing major transportation infrastructure as it happened later with the European colonists. Their interest was trading. They used a lot of indigenous middlemen to facilitate that. The indegenous middlemen would go in remote places inland to bring that what they wanted. The settlement of Arabs in many of the coastal cities and fewer in the hinterland spread their culture and religion in those areas. That's why the towns of Tanga and Pangani and many other smaller towns inland are densely populated with Moslems. About 90% of people who live in the city of Tanga and in Tanga Region in general are Moslem.
c). Portuguese and Goa Indians
The history tells that in 1597 some of Portuguese including a group of priests of St. Augustine Congregation came to Zanzibar. They didn't stay longer in Zanzibar possibly because of heavily Islamic religion and the existence of slave trade. They rerouted themselves from Zanzibar to Tanga. These Portuguese came with a group of Goa Indians from India. The Goans were Catholics by faith and they decided to remain in Tanga. The Christian Goan community in Tanga is traced to be the first seed of Christianity in the area.
d). The Holy Ghost Fathers
Later in 1860, three Holy Ghost Fathers, six sisters and one doctor from Germany arrived in Zanzibar. Sultan Seyyid Majid welcomed them. After he came to know that their goal was not to have a political occupation but rather establish themselves in good religious works, he promised to protect them. This group started in the island a technical school and later a hospital. They used these two institutions as the ground for evangelization. As they helped people in secular education and health, they minimally taught the Christian faith. These missionaries freed a good number of slaves, taught Christianity, and baptized them. In 1866 Fr. Horner, one of the Holy Ghost Fathers went to Mzizima (Dar Es Salaam) looking for place where he could start another mission center in the mainland. That trip took him all the way to Tanga where he didn't stay longer. He decided to leave Tanga for Bagamoyo where he stayed. In Bagamoyo, Fr. Horner started a special village for Christians and a house for the freed slaves. With his ministry in Bagamoyo, the place became the starting point of Christianity in the Mainland of Tanzania (Tanganyika in that time) and other part of Africa. The Holy Ghost Fathers settled in Bagamoyo and built up their center which has survived up to these days.
From Bagamoyo, one branch of the Holy Ghost Fathers travelled to Kilimanjaro where they were warmly welcomed by Chief Mangi Augusti of Kilema. This chief gave them a big potion of land to build their mission settlement. The Holy Ghost Fathers did a great work of evangelization in Kilimanjaro. By the end of 19th Century, they expanded themsleves from the Land of Mount Kilimanjaro to coastal land of Tanga in the east and all the way to Arusha, Mbulu, and Dodoma in the west. In the eastern side from Kilimanjaro, they evangelized in Kilomeni area and slowly they were able to reach and establish centers of evangelization in Tanga, Gare, Mlingano and Korogwe.
d). Vicariate of Kilimanjaro
In 1910 Propaganda Fide in Rome established a Vicariate of Kilimanjaro which included all areas of Mbulu, Same, Arusha, Dodoma and Tanga. In 1933 Pope Pius XII appointed Fr. Joseph Byrne, C.S.Sp (Holy Ghost fathers) to be the bishop of Kilimanjaro Vicariate.
f). The Trappist Monks in Tanga
In 1895 two Trappist monks from the Trappist Abbey in South Africa came to Tanga. When they arrived in Tanga, they went all the way to Lushoto where they requested from the district commissioner (DC) Sir Krestlin, a piece of land in which they could start their mission center. Sir Krestlin denied their request since he was the son of a Lutheran pastor. He denied the Catholics to be in Lushoto since the Lutherans had already established themselves in Usambara Mountains. He did not like to deal with the Catholics. The Trappist monks were very unhappy to be denied to establish themselves in Lushoto area. They finally returned to Tanga.
One and half year later, the Trappist monks returned to Lushoto and reapplied for the land in Lushoto area to build their mission center. At that time, their application was accepted. Fortunately there was a different district commissioner in Lushoto from the formerone Sir Krestlin. The monks were given 400 hectors in Irente area and other 160 hectors of forest in Gare area.
After getting these two pieces of land, they started building a mission in Gare. By 1904 they had completed building five houses. These buildings are still standing in Gare up to these days to testify their high quality technology in building construction.
The Trappist missionaries did not engage themselves in pastoral work of evangelization to the local people in the area. Their goal was to start the center of their religious congregation in the area. Their ministry of presence in the area attracted some few indigenous people to Christianity. It is said that many local people were more attracted not by their religious faith but by the material things they received from these missionaries. The stories go that many local people could be seen in church on Sundays when the monks gad slaughtered a cow or a pig with expectation of getting some meat after the holy mass celebration.
While some Trappist monks were in Gare, some of them established themselves in the land they got in Irente. Their presence in Irente and Gare dropped seeds of Catholicism in these twoareas. It is said that the first Catholics in the Usambara Mountains are those of Mhelo/Irente and Gare. These Catholics are the results of the Trappist monk missionaries presence in Usambara.
By 1906, the Trappist monks had not yet attained that what they had originally aimed to for their congregation. As the result, they were called back to South Africa. During their establishment in Gare, some Trappist monks died and were buried in Gare. Those who died and buried in Gare Mission were Fr. Leonard who died on September 26, 1897, Fr. Leander who died on May 14, 1900 and Fr. Emmanuel who died on December 18, 1900. When the Trappist monks left Usambara area in 1906, it was the end of the history of the Trappist in Tanga.